MedUni Vienna: Tailor-made cancer treatment: new drugs, new treatment strategies

There has been rapid and positive progress in the field of cancer treatment, giving patients a better chance of recovery coupled with good quality of life during treatment. That was the message from the press conference held today (Tuesday) to mark World Cancer Day in MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital.

These improvements are due to the introduction of new drugs and the increasing personalisation of treatment. The cancer research initiative offers education and information on these topics at Vienna Cancer Day on 12 February 2018. The venue is the Old General Hospital university campus in Vienna.

Targeted treatments and immunotherapy
With the introduction of targeted treatments, it is becoming increasingly possible to individualise treatment and thus provide so-called tailor-made treatment. As new target molecules are constantly being identified, more and more patients are able to receive "personalised treatment" (precision medicine). Such treatment is predicated upon the identification of defined mutations in the cancer tissue of the respective patient.

Spectacular progress has been made in the field of immunotherapy. "Increasingly, we are able to treat with a broad range of medicines, which can be customised to suit the specific clinical picture of each individual patient," reports Christoph Zielinski, Head of the Comprehensive Cancer Center (CCC) at MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital and Medical Director of Vienna Cancer Center. Ultimately, the trend is towards combining immunotherapy with a course of chemotherapy.

Focus on the gastro-intestinal tract: new treatment options
Metastasised colorectal cancer (mCRC) is broken down into four subtypes as a function of tumour biology, RAS-mutated and RAS Wild-type (Wt) cancers being the most common. Moreover, for patients with RAS-Wt, the location of the tumour (left or right side of the body) is also significant, since each location is associated with different tumour biology. This will dictate the type of treatment required. With a frequency of only 5%, BRAF-mutated cancers only make up a small subgroup and, due to their poorer prognosis, require a more aggressive treatment approach. And then there is the group of so-called high MSI (microsatellite instability) cancers, which likewise accounts for around 5% of all mCRC. These respond very well to immunotherapeutics – and even to monotherapy. Moreover, disease control rates of up to 90% were achieved in previously treated patients.

"Regular colonoscopies allow tumours to be detected at an early stage in more than 90% of cases and thus removed promptly during a colonoscopy procedure," says Gerald Prager from the Department of Medicine I, MedUni Vienna/Vienna General Hospital and CCC. "Colonoscopies are available throughout the whole of Austria but, nonetheless, it is important to make people aware of them."

Don't smoke – Keep the Smoke-Free Environments Act
Austrian Cancer Aid and the attending experts are once again using World Cancer Day on 4 February 2018 to appeal to the new government to reconsider its decision to overturn the Smoke-Free Environments Act passed in 2015. The new government's announcement motivated Austrian Cancer Aid to start its petition entitled "Don't smoke - Keep the Smoke-Free Environments Act". With more than 440,000 signatures, this petition is the cornerstone of the Medical Association's call for a referendum, which is fully supported by Austrian Cancer Aid.

"Smoking is an addiction. Smokers therefore often ignore the truth when defending their habit," notes Paul Sevelda, Director of the Division of Gynaecology and Obstetrics in Vienna-Hietzing Hospital, President of Austrian Cancer Aid. He counters the current trivialisation of smoking with scientific arguments.

Huge advances in cancer research
"Huge advances have been made in medicine, particularly in the field of cancer research. For many types of cancer, the chances of recovery have been greatly improved by the development of new treatment strategies, especially the introduction of immunotherapies," summarises Gabriela Kornek, Medical Director of Vienna General Hospital and President of the "Living with Cancer" association. Nevertheless, a diagnosis of cancer is often a shock and engenders a great deal of fear in patients, their relatives and friends. This is where education and information offer the best support. That is why the association organises a Cancer Information Day every year: "This year, Vienna Cancer Day is not being held in the town hall but in the lecture center of the university campus on the site of the Old General Hospital. This is an opportunity to learn about new developments and to swap experiences with other sufferers." Admission is free and there is no need to register.

All the talks from the information day can be viewed online free of charge: "Qualified patient education helps to improve patient compliance and also contributes to optimum diagnosis and treatment," says Kornek.

Cancer Day 2018 – Old General Hospital in Vienna
"Living with Cancer" association invites you to Vienna Cancer Day on 12 February 2018. From 9:00 to approx. 13:45 hrs, well-known speakers will be giving an interesting programme of talks about various types of cancer and the available treatment options. Members of self-help groups are also on hand for personal discussions.

Cancer Day 2018 in the Lecture Center/Courtyard 2 of the University Campus – Old General Hospital in Vienna, entrance at Spitalgasse 2, 1090 Vienna:
Monday 12 February 2018, 9:00 - 13:45 hrs. Admission is free.
Further information and full programme:


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